Story: Parades and protest marches

Page 2. Parades, 1890 to 1950

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Labour Day parade

The 1890s saw the trade union movement use parades to celebrate the unity and collective strength of working people.

The Labour Day parade began on 28 October 1890, when thousands marched through the main cities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the eight-hour work day. Their success led unionists to begin annual galas. Participants marched behind floats, trade tableaux, flying banners and emblems, and paraded to parks for family-oriented picnics and sports events. Prizes were awarded for the best floats and athletes. In 1899 Labour Day became a public holiday and the parades swelled. Enthusiasm for the parades declined in the 1920s and they were discontinued.

Anniversaries and jubilees

Commemorating the anniversary of a city, town or region fostered common memories about their beginnings and development.

Otago’s 50th jubilee parade through Dunedin in 1898 was divided into three sections: community and business, historical, and military and dignitaries.

‘Procesh’

Processions as part of university graduation ceremonies began at Canterbury College in 1899 and were quickly adopted by other colleges. The ‘procesh’ was an opportunity for students to engage in high jinks and bawdiness. It generally consisted of a series of floats satirising politics, current events, and public figures. Students wore fancy dress and engaged in stunts.

The ‘essential elements’ of the procesh were ‘topical satire, drunkenness, transvestism, the exchange of missiles with onlookers (from flour bombs to sausage strings) and displays on sexual and scatological themes’.1 In 1912 Auckland students acquired police uniforms. They held up trams, inspected shops, and made mock arrests.

In the early 1970s student interest in the procesh faded. In many university towns it was replaced by a formal street parade of graduands.

Heroes’ welcome

In 1940 Auckland and Wellington hosted jubilant parades to welcome sailors of HMS Achilles. It had served in the battle of the River Plate, at Rio de la Plata off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay. It was the first major naval battle of the Second World War. Over half of the Achilles personnel were New Zealanders.

Military parades

Military parades became more important as New Zealand began fighting overseas.

Parades farewelling troops leaving for war overseas, or welcoming those returning home, became popular during the First World War. They were designed to arouse patriotic fervour and to show support for service personnel. They typically included a military band, New Zealand and allied flags, and streamers and bunting. After the Second World War parades commemorating past battles, particular service units, or official anniversaries became the most common.

Anzac Day parades

Anzac Day parades began in 1916 and are held annually throughout New Zealand on the morning of 25 April. They form part of a ceremony commemorating the 1915 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Gallipoli, Turkey, and New Zealand’s war dead and veterans.

The parade occurs in the late morning, following dawn remembrance services at local war memorials. Medal-wearing veterans march behind standards and banners to the main war memorials for commemorative services. They are joined by members of the armed forces, other community groups, and, more recently, by families and descendants of veterans.

Victory parades: VE and VJ days

New Zealand found out about Germany’s surrender in the Second World War on 7 May 1945. But the government decreed that celebrations should wait for the official peace announcement on 9 May – Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Dunedinites ignored the order and on 8 May flocked into the city to party. The town hall bells pealed and thousands milling in the Octagon broke into song.

The following day in Christchurch unions organised a victory parade from Latimer to Cathedral squares, where marchers sang patriotic ditties. People sang and danced, kissed strangers, and engaged in street theatre. Similar scenes followed the surrender of Japan (VJ Day) on 15 August 1945, although in Auckland too much celebratory booze led to bottle throwing and people being hurt.

Footnotes:
  1. Rachel Barrowman, Victoria University of Wellington 1899–1999: a history. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1999, p. 90. Back
How to cite this page:

Ben Schrader, 'Parades and protest marches - Parades, 1890 to 1950', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/parades-and-protest-marches/page-2 (accessed 18 September 2019)

Story by Ben Schrader, published 11 Mar 2010